In a move which sent the Twins blogosphere abuzz last week, the Twins released reliever Bobby Keppel, who had decided to sign with a Japanese League team, and signed relief pitcher Clay Condrey, late of the Philadelphia Phillies. They also signed left-hander Mike Maroth to a minor league deal.
Keppel joined the Twins as a minor league free agent prior to the 2009 season and pitched extremely well in Rochester. In 23 games with the Red Wings, spanning 55.2 innings, Keppel compiled a 3-3 mark with a 2.43 ERA, allowing 51 hits, 13 walks, and striking out 28. Recalled because of the Twins' mid-season bullpen woes, Keppel started out with 11.1 scoreless innings over his first four appearances, but fell back to earth shortly thereafter. While with the Twins, Keppel pitched 54 innings out of the bullpen over 37 appearances, allowed 63 hits, 21 walks, and struck out 32 batters. He was 1-1 with a 4.83 ERA. His lone victory (and the only one of his career, thus far) came in the Twins' tie-breaker game against the Detroit Tigers, when he wriggled out of a bases-loaded, one-out jam in the top of the 12th inning.
Maroth is a depth move. He missed all of 2009 with a knee injury and most of 2008 after shoulder surgery. Unfortunately, he is best remembered for recording the first 20-loss season in 25 years when he went 9-21 for the awful 2003 Tigers. By signing Condrey, the Twins added another right-handed arm to its middle relief corps. He is a six-year MLB veteran who has spent time with the San Diego Padres and the Phillies. Condrey made 45 appearances for the Phils last season and pitched 42 innings, allowing 37 hits, 14 walks, and struck out 25 batters. He was 6-2 with a 3.00 ERA and recorded a save. Over his career, Condrey has made 179 appearances (and nine starts, but none since 2003), threw 250.1 innings, allowed 281 hits, 114 earned runs, walked 87 and struck out 143. He seems to fit the Twins' mold of not walking too many men but also not missing many bats. At age 34, he will provide some depth for 2010 but not much beyond that.
The signing of Condrey seems to suggest that the Twins want some more flexibility should Pat Neshek not be ready to go on opening day. Neshek is rehabbing from arm surgery and has not thrown a Major League pitch since May 8, 2008. The Twins already have Jon Rauch, Jesse Crain, Jose Mijares, and Joe Nathan in the bullpen mix, with one of either Francisco Liriano or Brian Duensing likely to start the year in the pen (the other in the rotation, unless the Twins acquire another starting pitcher), so putting someone else out there like Condrey gives the organization flexibility. The Twins also like to have somewhat experienced options for Rochester as well. Prior to last season, the Twins signed Keppel and Sean Henn to do just that, and both saw time in Minnesota. Heck, the Twins were "forced" to give Keppel 54 innings last season, so one never knows. Of course, if GM Bill Smith had addressed the bullpen hole far earlier than he did, Keppel would not thrown nearly as many innings, and the Twins would have been far better off.
Signing Condrey won't make any headlines, but it gives the Twins flexibility should Neshek not be ready and provides some organizational depth. Hopefully, he won't have to go 54 innings in three months like Keppel, but Condrey is serviceable and reliable when used properly, and has been solid his last two seasons.